Reading Paul Gauguin

He named his notebook Noa Noa, “fragrant
fragrant,” a text for paradise, where pebbly ground
hardens one’s feet, even as I shake sand out of my shoe.
“Confusion of trees,” bouraos, ironwood,
pandanus, hibiscus, guava, giant leaves a canopy
for bronze-limbed women adjusting red

blossoms behind their ears, all that joy
in roaming the forest, hatcheting a path.
His words follow me into afternoon, rocking
from the sea, crumbling open on the beach,
drifting down from scarred palmettos. Gauguin
stepping out of his doorway naked

(the hole in this whelk the way it meets the world),

a wild silence descending on breadfruit
and fern, his 13-year-old wife smoking in bed,
her awareness beyond comprehension.
The sea I walk along now less familiar,
sleeplessness folding unseen into seen,
the day’s harmonies flattening into brown and blue,

the willet dipping toward his reflection in a tidal pool.

John Allman | Mudlark No. 31
Contents | The Music of Osun